TV Mass attracts faith-filled, loyal audience
The Mass airs every Sunday at 5:30 a.m. for appreciative viewers on WBAY, channel 2
Sixth in a Bishop's Appeal Series
By Jeff Kurowski
Compass Assistant Editor
|THE LORD BE WITH YOU: Fr. John Van Deuren presides at a recent Sunday TV Mass shown weekly on WBAY, channel 2, Green Bay. The Masses are funded through the annual Bishop's Appeal. (Rick Evans photo)
Some of Fr. Dave Kasperek's favorite letters come from people he has never met. Although he hasn't spoken to them in person, the pastor at Ss. Edward & Isidore Parish in Flintville, has made an important connection with them through the weekly television Mass, which airs at 5:30 a.m., Sunday mornings on WBAY-TV.
"I've never had TV Mass without feedback," he said. "I get nice letters from people who say 'I saw you on television.' It is such a marvelous way to reach out to people. If I had the time, I would do every TV Mass."
The TV Mass, supported by donations to the annual Bishop's Appeal, is produced by the
diocese in cooperation with WBAY. Tony Kuick, diocesan director of Communications, directs the broadcasts. Anissa Lodzinski, associate director of Worship for the diocese, serves as liturgical coordinator for the TV Mass, which dates back to when the Norbertines owned the station from 1953 to 1976.
The Mass is designed to serve shut-ins and other Catholics who are unable to attend Mass at area churches. Masses are taped with the audience in mind, said Lodzinski.
"We try to be really conscious of the viewers, understanding that in many cases it's the only contact they are going to have with the diocese during the week," she said. "The presiders know they aren't going to be out and active, so they give them things to think about."
"I think about my own father and mother when they were in their later years," said Fr. Willie Van De Loo, a regular presider at TV Mass over the years. "That's as close as some of these people are able to get to the church. It makes the connection. It makes it real for them. Knowing that the TV Mass is keeping the sick or shut-ins in contact with God is very meaningful."
Presiding at TV Mass requires some adjustments, he added.
"I always like to move around for the homily (in church), so that is one difference," he said. "You have to be prepared and keep in mind that you are praying. You are keeping eye contact with the camera, but you are still praying. If you have a story, you have to make sure it flows, or you lose the people."
Timing can be an issue with the 30-minute format. Fr. Kasperek, who is scheduled to preside at the TV Masses airing March 18 and 25, said he is very comfortable with the time
"It comes very easily to me," he said. "I always like to share a story, one that people will remember. I usually build around a one-sentence theme, and if I have two minutes or three minutes, I can adjust it according to time. I'm always able to finish on time."
"It has been a great experience," he added. "Priests should not approach it as an obligation. It's a celebration, the magic of the Mass. The beauty of the Mass is the presence of Christ. It's more than going through the motions. This is a celebration. There is an excitement and a sense of opportunity to share with people."
Parish choirs volunteer their time and talents for TV Mass.
"It gives their parish exposure," said Lodzinski, who schedules the choirs. "It gives them not only an opportunity to serve their parish, but also serve the diocese. We get choirs from throughout the diocese. We've had choirs form Wautoma, Manitowoc, New Holstein, Door County, Marinette. They are willing to make the commitment. Many come back. I only have six openings for choirs from now through the end of December."
Much like the presiders, the choirs keep the audience in mind, she added.
"They sing familiar hymns," she said. "Working with the choirs provides a great connection for me. It keeps me in touch with people who I wouldn't otherwise know. If they have questions about other things at a later date, they can put a face with the name. That
bonding experience is helpful."
The TV Mass aired at 6:30 a.m. until August of 2004 when it was moved to 5:30 a.m. following an ABC programming change. Lodzinski credits WBAY and Dick Millhiser, program and operations manager at the station, for supporting the TV Mass.
"They donate the air time," she said. "There are minimally six people from WBAY in the studio working with us. It's a big contribution to the diocese and they've been very gracious and very flexible when we've needed to be flexible."
The TV Mass, which is taped on Tuesday evenings, extends beyond homebound Catholics.
"I have people at Mass who tell me they saw me on television earlier that morning," said Fr. Kasperek. "I enjoy doing it. It has been a marvelous experience. If they ever need anyone to do it, they can call me. It doesn't take me long to get prepared and I welcome the opportunity."
"When I was teaching at seminary and during my years as Vicar for Priests, I visited parishes for Masses on weekends," said Fr. Van De Loo. "I've met so many people. Now when I do TV Mass, there is always someone from the choir who knows me. It's nice to see people again."
"The TV Mass has a long history and hopefully it will continue for many years to come," he added. "I'm glad to be a part of it."